Business Irish

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Necessity the mother of invention as children take first steps

David Young

Published 25/03/2014 | 02:30

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From left, Daniel Smyth (5), Bethany Watson (3) and Charlotte Taylor (3) use a Firefly Upsee, a standing and walking harness for children with motor impairment, which attaches to a parent allowing them and their child to take steps together. Presseye
Left to right): Claire and Daniel Smyth, Louise and Bethany Watson and Cameron and Charlotte Taylor using a Firefly Upsee
Left to right): Claire and Daniel Smyth, Louise and Bethany Watson and Cameron and Charlotte Taylor using a Firefly Upsee

A mother's invention that gave her wheelchair-bound son the chance to walk has been launched on to the worldwide market.

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A Northern Ireland company has turned Debby Elnatan's idea for a walking harness into a product that could transform the lives of countless children.

Ms Elnatan, a music therapist, came up with the concept to help her young son Rotem, who has cerebral palsy.

She designed a support harness that would enable Rotem to stand upright and, by attaching it to herself, let parent and child take steps together.

After a global search for a company to mass produce her 'Upsee', the Israeli mother chose Northern Ireland-based manufacturer Leckey, which has a long track record in making equipment for children with special needs.

After successful trials with families in the UK, US and Canada, the 'Firefly Upsee' has just been launched globally.

"It is wonderful to see this product available to families across the world," said Ms Elnatan, who was at the official unveiling at the Leckey factory in Lisburn, Co Antrim yesterday.

"When my son was two years old, I was told by medical professionals that he didn't know what his legs are and has no consciousness of them. Out of my pain and desperation came the idea for the Upsee."

The Upsee allows infants and small children to stand and achieve repetitive walking training with the support of an adult.

It includes a harness for the child, which attaches to a belt worn by an adult, and specially-engineered sandals that allow the parent and child to step simultaneously.

Maura McCrystal, mother of five-year-old Jack from Draperstown in Northern Ireland, has been one of the first parents to use the product.

"Last Sunday was a significant one for us as a family as it was the first time our son Jack was able to play football in the back garden with his dad, his brothers and our little dog Milly," she said.

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